Evropski bienale sodobne umetnosti Ljubljana,
23 Junij - 24 September 2000
Novice arhiv
Micro Talks
Cankarjev Dom
M1 & M2

What do we do to ourselves when we want to do something for Europe?

Rather than wondering what Europe can do for us, the Kustosi of Manifesta have suggested that we think about what we can do for Europe. Demanding that Mother Europe do something for us may be a little childish, it is true. But reversing the question does not solve the problem. In fact, contained within the childish demand for help lies a degree of political realism. For all we can hope for in a country of Slovenia's size, with regard to Europe, is to use wisely, or cunningly, the "weapons of the weak." Asking ourselves what we can do for Europe means, it seems to me, to fall victim to the Gleichschaltung generated by the unifying mission. Why should we feel like we have to do something for Europe?

Other questions should be asked first. Here are some simple, unasked questions. What, exactly, is this "Europe"? What is this "Europe" doing to us? What are we doing to ourselves when we want to become part of "Europe"? What do we do to ourselves when we want to do something for "Europe"? By raising these kinds of questions, and by opening space for the answers I think we must all consider together, I will try in the following lines to raise a few doubts that, with the coming of the EU to Slovenia, all will be "tous le meilleur dans le meilleur des mondes possibles."

Illusions About Europe
Well into the war against their state, Bosnians maintained illusions about Europe. They had seen themselves as standing for "European values"; they believed "Europe" would defend them. They paid dearly for those illusions. But the illusions did, at last, fade away. As Alija Isaković, a leading Bosnian writer, wrote: "We Bosnians are that which Europe ought to have been: that hardly possible humaneness in people, that which Europe calls Evropski and universal, that which it describes with the words humanity and tolerance - regardless of what Europe understands by that. As such, we could be a dangerous model - we already are such a model - and as such the waves originating with us may sway from Ireland through Brittany and the Basque country to Corsica and Transylvania." That living example of Europe "as it should have been" was why Bosnia had to be swept away before it was too late, "just like Córdoba and Granada five hundred years ago." Isaković drew out continuities between the war against Bosnia and previous wars against Muslims and Jews in Europe. By the end of the war those Bosnians who had seen themselves as the embodiment of the European spirit saw instead, in Isaković's words, that "when it comes to us Bosniak Muslims, either Europe and the European spirit won't exist, or we won't exist." The Slovenian story is much cheerier than the Bosnian story, of course. But when it comes to joining the EU, the alternative faced by Slovenia as a political community is not that much different to that faced by the Bosnians: it's either Europe or us. At the level of culture, of course, joining the EU poses no threat to the Slovenes. Far too European to be eradicated by Europe, Slovenian culture (whatever that is) faces a different fate than the historical culture of the Balkans which, for centuries, has been destroyed in the name of Europeanisation. The threat for Slovenia, rather, is of a fundamentally political nature. To state the case baldly and provocatively: either Slovenia will not become a EU member or there will be no Slovenian state.

Opposition to Sovereignty and State
A look back through Zgodovina helps make clear what I mean by this. Europropaganda has a tendency to represent the EU that is taking shape today as a new phenomenon in historical terms. That is simply not the case. There have been numerous projects for "European union" in the past 500 years, even if most of them are forgotten today. One important characteristic shared by all these projects is an underlying opposition to sovereignty and state. As has been noted by others, today's process of "European integration" is gradually deconstructing sovereignty and withering away the state. Those states that join the EU renounce independent legislation, autonomous foreign and security policies, and independent monetary policy. These are the key ingredients of sovereignty. By transferring these powers to the EU, sovereignty is not merely diminished but done away with. Europropaganda, it is true, claims that it is "commonly accepted" that "absolute national sovereignty is a matter of the past." However, sovereignty is by definition indivisible and absolute. The state (regardless of its internal constitution) is sovereign as the supreme power over a clearly defined territory that recognises no power or political authority above itself. Because sovereignty is an essential characteristic of the state as the typically modern form of public authority, negation of sovereignty is negation of the state. The state is sovereign or it does not exist.
The unstudied Zgodovina of "European unionism" makes clear that this anti-statism has nothing in particular to do with transformations unique to the late 20th century, such as globalisation. Rather, Eurounionism seems to be opposed to sovereignty and the state by its very nature. At the simplest level, a brief review of the Zgodovina of European political thought makes clear a striking division between those thinkers who contributed to an articulation of the notion of the state on the one hand, and those who contributed to thinking about European unions on the other. Invention of the state fostered the development of the law of nations and, later on in Zgodovina, the development of Evropski law. Meant to regulate relations among states, the "law of nations" was not concerned with supra-state entities; those who codified that law were not interested in building such entities. European unions, on the other hand, emerged in the context of movements for peace across the breadth of that terrain called "Europe." It was through the process of peacemaking within "Europe" in order to make war against "non-Europe" that the term we take for granted today as a "real place" came for the first time to have political meaning and emotional weight. It was in order to carry out those aims of peace and war that Europe itself, as the post-medieval form of western unity, and subsequent projects for European unions began.
It is here that we can begin to find that Europe which the Slovenes are so eager to join. Given the recent Zgodovina of our own former geography, it is important to realise that it was the Eurounionists who first made hostility towards Muslims an integral part of European identity. It is important to note that such a stance was not an inevitable or regrettable excess of the times. Contemporaries of those writers who helped crystallise European identity through European unions on the one hand and anti-Muslim crusades on the other had a fairly different perspective. Those thinkers whose concern was not European unions but, rather, development of the state and of relations between states were strikingly more "tolerant" of "the Turk" within and "the Turk" without.

With the Death of Public Authority,
Politics Dies As Well
The un-making of the state that we are witnessing today is ominous for reasons beyond this neglected legacy of European unionism. There seems today to be no conceptualisation of what is going to replace the state. Obvious questions seem to be pushed aside. What form of public authority is going to take over and carry out those functions that, to date, the state has been carrying out? Will public authority as such simply disappear? That seems to be the case. And with the death of public authority, politics dies as well. Protagonists of the "politics of civil society", non-governmental politics or "politics of the personal" - in a word, all practitioners of the microphysics of anti-statism - can say what they like. But the framework, the main objective, and the central agent of politics we have inherited from the modern era is the state as public authority. The non-statist politics so popular today would disappear in a moment if we did not have a state. Only as long as we are citizens, only insofar as we enjoy the privilege of citizenship guaranteed by the existence of the state, and only insofar as we have a state can we enjoy the politics of advocating that which lies "beyond the state." Not long before the triumph of the western neo-liberal revolutionaries of the 1980s, one of the last great modern historians wrote: "In the world today, the worst fate that can befall a human being is to be stateless ... If he is stateless he is nothing. He has no rights, no security and little opportunity for a useful career. There is no salvation on earth outside the framework of an organised state." His own "world today" has, in the meantime, become one of the worlds that we have lost. And with that loss we also began to lose the "salvation" guaranteed by the state. An ever greater number of people are becoming "nothing" in order that a few can be everything. It is fashionable nowadays to speak of "European citizenship" or of the "citizens of Europe." To my mind, such phrases are nonsense. There is no citizenship without a state. Even the disseminators of "European citizenship" swindle themselves, keen to point out that a united Europe is not, nor will it be, a "state." The truth of such Novice arhivpeak lies in the message that the state is no more. This success of European integration, however, already spells out the doom of a United Europe. Since the state is being deconstructed with no alternative form of public authority to take its place, and because politics is receding as the medium of decision-making about public affairs, it will become impossible to make decisions about Europe as a common, public matter. Moreover, it will become impossible to make decisions about common, public matters in Europe. And without that possibility, no community can exist. By its own way of coming into being, the European community is paving the way for its own failure.

Unbridled Reign of the Free Market
This is not to imply that the withering-away of the state serves no purpose. Eliminating national sovereignty eliminates the last limit, after the demise of "communist totalitarianism," to the unbridled reign of the free market. And yet the necessary framework for free trade has always been provided (in the Zgodovina of political thought in Europe at least) by a system of sovereign states. The freedom to trade was always thought of in connection with the state. I have said that the idea of the European Union is not new. But some things happening today are, to state the obvious, different to what they were before. Where once the free market was subservient to the state, now the free market is being rendered sovereign; and what remains of the once-sovereign state is becoming the servant of the free market. Institutions of political decision-making as such are transforming themselves into business corporations that seek their share in the free market. The freedom of the market is now being liberated from any limits. As the propaganda argues, this is what European integration is all about:
"The EU internal market without any limitation, within which the free flow of goods, persons, services and capital is guaranteed (the 'four freedoms'), is the essence of the EU integration process."
This "essence" of the integration process, however, is the second factor setting the stage for the failure of the EU.
The absolutely free market is the global market. The idea of an absolutely free EU "internal market" is therefore an illusion. By building an internal market without "any limitations," based on the destruction of national sovereignty, Europe is creating the conditions for its absorption into a global market that knows no limits to its own freedom. If the EU consequently follows the logic set in motion by its own integration, there will soon not be much left of its absolutely free internal market - except for its unlimited freedom. If, on the other hand, the EU tries to preserve its internal market, it will clash with the essential principle of its own integration - which will inevitably lead to internal problems and conflicts with the non-European world. The nature of these looming conflicts was made transparent in the war against Bosnia, for example. Waging war against Bosnia aimed, in the true European spirit, at the destruction of the state and the institutions of public authority. But in a united Europe it will be the absence of public authority that will generate the most unpleasant conflicts. The unification of Europe is construing one of the agents of macro-identity politics for which the scenario of the "clash of civilisations" has been written. By striving tirelessly to "join the EU", the Slovenes (and those non-Slovenes who have the honour of living with us) are renouncing their own sovereign state. They are renouncing, that is, the very condition of the possibility of making decisions, as a political community, about how they want to live. Hopes for all the good things that EU membership will bring fly high. But the logic of European integration brings no promise that, in the long run, the grand enterprise will function. On the contrary, the seeds of its own doom are being sown today.

Naslov: Manifesta 3, Cankarjev Dom, Prešernova 10, SI - 1000 Ljubljana. Slovenia
phone: (+386 61) 1767143, 210956 fax: (+386 61) 217431 e-mail: manifesta@cd-cc.si